Decades before the creation of the United States Space Force, the sixth and newest branch of the United States military, there were already plans in place to bring future conflicts beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. A number of killer satellites have been deployed over the years, but in the late 1970s the U.S. saw that threat. The worry was that the Soviet killer satellites could destroy vital U.S. reconnaissance and communication satellites and developed a variety of anti-satellite missiles to counter the threat.
Among these was the ASM-135A, which was unique in that it wasn’t launched like a rocket from the ground – such as the Nike-Zeus or Thor anti-ballistic missile systems – but rather it could be fired from an aircraft in flight. Airborne tests with “captive” – not launched – anti-satellite missiles (ASATs) that could be fired from modified F-15 fighters began in 1982.
Additional tests were conducted over the Pacific Ocean where the ASAT was launched at a specific point in space and fired, but no actual target was involved.